I was surprised by some of the takeaways I’ve seen of a recent podcast and interview of mine: that I don’t have it all figured out, and that I’m still trying to find my groove. I didn’t expect to be perceived as unique or vulnerable in talking about how I continue to learn about my sport, or build a better relationship with my coach.
I don’t love the implication that in saying I don’t have all the answers, I’m admitting that I’m not great at what I do. I believe that the capacity to be always learning is a key factor that differentiates people who reach the top of their field.
It’s not that I don’t already know a lot about my training. I’m happy to geek out on any aspect (except maybe some specific workout where I turn off my mind and just let me coach tell me what to do). But I also know there is always more out there. Or some way to refine a system. Or some input that changes as I get older.
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And TBH, this perpetual student mindset is my “groove.” I would get bored without it. Insofar as boredom is a contributor to burnout, I believe the mindset in itself helps my longevity as an athlete.
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Expert status, mastery, they are not destinations, they are states of mind. So are relationships. I say I’m continuing to improve my relationship with my coach. In no way does that mean we don’t have a good one. I’m continuing to improve my relationship with my mother, and I’ve loved her my whole life. Relationships take active work. You should grow deeper understanding with someone the longer you know them. That is one reason this extra year of training for the Olympic summer has been a hidden gift.
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I fully expect to progress in the next year. But I will never progress to the point where I stop giving “vulnerable” interviews about how I’m “figuring it all out.” I guess I’m saying I have figured out all I need: The moment that I stop the beginner mindset, the moment I no longer want to learn or improve, is the moment I retire.
(For reference, podcast is Running on Om. I so enjoyed this discussion with Julia. And I do admit that I ramble around my point … I could probably work on that and seem more authoritative.)